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Edward Liddle's Biographies of Irish Cricketers
Kevin Joseph O'Brien
  • Born 4 March 1984, Dublin
  • Educated Marian College, Dublin Dublin Business School
  • Occupation Professional Cricketer
  • Debut 11 June 2006 v Sussex at Castle Avenue
  • Cap Number 655
  • Style Right hand bat, right arm medium pace bowler
  • Teams Railway Union MCC Young Cricketers Millhillians Nottinghamshire Gloucestershire

Kevin O'Brien will always be remembered for his magnificent 113 against England at Bangalore in the 2011 World Cup when, with an innings which did, indeed contain "Six After Six" as his book suggests, he decimated England's powerful attack and set up arguably the greatest day in Irish cricket history. However as his many other fine performances indicate Kevin is much more than a "one match wonder." Having scored almost 4000 runs for Ireland with his aggressive middle order batting and taken 130 wickets at an attacking but generally economical medium pace, he deserves to be ranked among our leading all-rounders, a tag which his performances frequently justify. He was born into a remarkable sporting family. His father Brendan - always known as Ginger - played 51 times for Ireland, mostly as an opening bat and was also a top class footballer and hockey player. His five siblings were all talented games players, the best known being, of course his immediately elder brother Niall, wicket keeper/batsman for Ireland, Kent and Northamptonshire and sister Ciara, also a talented cricketer who gained Irish caps at U23 level, but is more widely known as a multi capped hockey international. Three other brothers all played senior cricket for Railway Union.

No cricket was played at Marian College, though that situation has now been rectified, but with ferociously fought out family Test matches and age group cricket at Railway Union's Park Avenue ground, virtually as soon as he could walk, Kevin did not really suffer from this. He was a talented all round games player in his boyhood, also excelling at Association and Gaelic football.

Success for Railway's various boys' sides found him playing minor cricket for men's teams at an early age and, unsurprisingly, gained him selection for the first ever Ireland U13 side in a tournament at Edinburgh's Fettes College in 1997. He took 3-10 in the final match against Scotland when a young batsman named William Porterfield made a stylish half century. At this stage, though some of his coaches, such as the ever perceptive Brian O'Rourke, saw real batting talent, Kevin tended to regard himself primarily as a bowler and was happier going in about 7 or 8 in the order. It was thus as a bowler that he appeared for Ireland U17s in the European Championships of 2001, taking 3-20 against Denmark and again for the U19s as they carried off the title in both 2002 and the following season.

Glimpses of the O'Brien batting talent appeared in both seasons however. In the former year, when the competition was held at Oundle School in Leicestershire he made an undefeated 48 against The Netherlands, top score, while in 2003 in The Netherlands, he had a good all round tournament with a score of 37 against Germany and figures of 3-20 against Denmark and 2-10 against France.

Ireland's success in this tournament saw them qualify for the U19 World Cup in Bangladesh the following February. Here Adi Birrell and O'Rourke converted him into an upper order batsman and he responded in kind with three top class performances. In Ireland's opening match v West Indies, he was responsible for almost causing what would have been a major upset. Facing a total of 265, Ireland lost Porterfield and Eoin Morgan cheaply, Kevin coming in at 48-2. He proceeded to give a taste of things to come by making a superb 95. Scoring at a run a ball, he hit 13 fours and 1 six, besides adding 93 for the third wicket with Gary Wilson (64). Kevin's dismissal, by Lendl Simmons, nephew of Phil, was crucial, Ireland losing by a mere 6 runs. He also took part in a big third wicket stand against Uganda. Coming in at 81-2 after Ireland had won the toss and batted, he added 165 for the third with Morgan. The left hander went on to make a brilliant 117, Kevin hit an 87 ball 70 with 9 fours. He then took 1-21 and held 2 catches, thus contributing well to Ireland's victory. His third noteworthy innings came against Canada, again helping Ireland to victory - by 155 runs this time. He topscored with 51 off 72 balls. Occupying 94 minutes the innings contained 5 fours. Only Morgan scored more runs for Ireland in the tournament.

Before leaving age group cricket we should make some mention of Kevin's performances for Ireland at U23 level. Two matches stand out both in the European Championships at Deventer in 2005 where his contribution in low scoring matches was essential. Against Scotland he played an outstanding innings while his team-mates crumbled around him. Ireland were dismissed for 147, a score which would have been far lower had it not been for a remarkable 59 from Kevin. He came in at 26-3 and held the side together, before being last out. Apart from Mr Extras who contributed a useful 44, thanks to 30 wides, John Mooney was next top scorer with 11! Kevin then chipped in with 2-36 but was unable to prevent the Scots from winning by one wicket. However another fine all round performance led to a good win over The Netherlands. The Dutch ran up a total of 186, their lower order destroyed by Kevin who had the outstanding figures of 4.4-0-17-5. He then ensured Ireland's 3 wickets victory with a dominating knock of 74, falling in the end to the gentle off spin of Alexei Kervezee, better known now as a Worcestershire batsman.

The fact that so much of Kevin's time has been spent playing for Ireland or in English professional cricket has meant that domestic competitions have seen all too little of him. However when he has played, he has been well worth watching. Having begun his senior career as a 16 year old with a maiden to Ed Joyce in College Park, he was soon an essential member of the Railway Union side. As early as 2001 he gave evidence of his remarkable batting skill in a match against Leinster at Rathmines. The hosts had run up a challenging 354-3 off their 55 overs. Railway fell only 3 runs short in an exciting chase. The 17 year old Kevin contributing 63 at 7.

Among many outstanding bowling performances over the years we might note one of his earliest, against Old Belvedere at Cabra in 2002 when he set up a 9 wicket victory with figures of 4-12 in 11.4 overs. In 2003, when still only 19 he turned in a crucial match winning performance against Brigade in the Irish Senior Cup. Coming in at 7 with a good total in the balance, he raced to a typical 90 with only Adrian Murphy (75) getting among the runs also. He then chipped in with 2-32 and one catch to ensure both victory and the Man of the Match award.

Two and a bit seasons with MCC Young Cricketers, discussed below, limited his appearances, but in 2006 he was back at Park Avenue with a vengeance. He had decided to leave Lord's on the grounds that he had to be playing in Ireland to ensure selection for the national side and the following year's World Cup. That season, which he began with 94 against Munster Reds and 88 against Old Belvedere both in the 45 over Dublin Grass Machinery League, he scored 750 runs in Leinster senior cricket, as well as making crucial contributions in the Irish Senior and Alan Murray (20 over) Cups. He hit exactly 100 to bring victory over Malahide in the 45 over competition's final; his other two tons were both against CYM, his highest score for the season being 154 in the second match when he also had 3-56!

In the ISC Final, he shone with the ball with 4-17 against the fancied Phoenix batting line up. At the start of the 2011 season he was available for Railway to produce yet another match winning all round performance, adding a further medal to his collection also. Against Pembroke on their home turf, he came in at No 4 and contributed a rousing 48 to a total of 346-7. He then came on second change to turn in the excellent figures of 10-1-15-4, dismissing the Sydney Paraders for 115. County and International calls meant that Kevin made only six appearances for Railway Union in Leinster Senior Cricket in 2012. However he still managed to score 293 runs at 73.25 and take 11 wickets at 14.64. His best all round performance came in a first round cup match against Leinster CC. Having taken 3-41 from 11 overs, he then came in at 4, after Railway, chasing a total of 190, had lost two wickets cheaply. They did not lose any more. Kevin took control making 80* off 59 balls with 13 fours and 1 six. He totally dominated a third wicket, match winning stand of 85 with Kenny Carroll.

He was again in top form in the League with YMCA as Railway piled up an impressive 305-7 against their near neighbours. Putting on 158 for the second wicket with Pat Collins, he made 103 off 61 balls with 8 fours and 6 sixes.

The rain ruined summer of 2012 saw the reintroduction of interprovincial cricket with two North v South matches, a third - the planned first - was abandoned. Having led his side to victory at The Lawn, he saw a much changed team lose to the North at Bready. However Kevin himself was in magnificent from, falling, unfortunately, one run short of three figures, having faced 103 balls, hit 7 fours and 2 sixes.

From mid-season 2003 until the end of summer 2005, he was at Lord's with MCC Young Cricketers. This was a time he greatly enjoyed, playing alongside Porterfield, Gary Wilson and Gary Keady as well as others who have made their name in the game including current West Indies captain Darren Sammy. In all matches in 2005 he scored over 1000 runs and took 50 wickets. One of his best competitive games came in the 50 over Second XI Trophy match against Kent in 2005. MCCYC totalled 269-8 from their allocation, very much an Irish affair with Kevin topscoring on 68* well supported by Porterfield (49) and Wilson (42). They still lost by 5 wickets. During this time he also played some club cricket in the Home Counties League turning out for Millhillians, along with Sammy and Porterfield.

October 2004 had seen him a member of the MCC party which toured Gibraltar and Morocco. On The Rock Kevin found his bowling form and together with Charles Fellows-Smith, son of the former South African Test all-rounder Jonathon "Pom Pom" Fellows Smith who played for MCC v Ireland at College Park in 1954, was too much for the hosts' batsmen. In the first of two matches played Kevin followed a typically robust 42 with figures of 3-19. Crossing the straits, he took 3-13 against Morocco including that of their captain and best player, the former Australian batsman Gary Cosier.

In 2009, as a result of his Irish performances, Kevin joined Nottinghamshire at the end of May to play in the T20 competition. His opportunities with both bat and ball were limited though he did hit a 20 ball 26 in his final match against Glamorgan. He also played a few games for the Second XI, again shining in a Trophy match with 39 in 22 balls against Worcestershire including 1 four and 2 sixes. Rain prevented the opposition from replying.

The 2011 summer saw him with Gloucestershire where he played two T20 innings which evoked memories of Bangalore a few months before. On both occasions Middlesex were on the receiving end. At Uxbridge. He and New Zealander - and almost Irishman? - Hamish Marshall destroyed their hosts' attack putting on 192 for the first wicket. Both made hundreds, a previously unknown event in T20, with Kevin striking 119 off 52 balls with 11 sixes and 7 fours. The partnership was a first wicket record at the time as was the team total. Victory by 105 runs followed, Paul Stirling, who might possibly have played a similar innings, being out for 0.

Six weeks later at Bristol, Kevin was at No 5 when, to quote Wisden he "arrived in the 13th over to club 58* from 29 balls." Twenty of his runs came from the last over including a six over square leg off a no ball." He was also seen to some advantage in the Second XI with the Trophy again producing some good innings. On 23 May at Kidderminster two matches were played in the day against Worcestershire, with Kevin topscoring in both with 39 in a 5 wicket win and 61 in a victory by 57 runs. However his most notable innings for the Second XI came in 3 day non championship match with Derbyshire at Bristol, a high scoring encounter which the visitors won by 1 wicket. Gloucestershire began with 407-7 declared. This was, in a great part due to Kevin, who, coming in at 4, made a savage 169 before being stumped off the off spin of Daniel Redfern.

In 2012 Kevin played several T20 matches for Somerset without a rather limited of success. He made 52 runs at 17.33 with a highest score of 22 against Worcestershire at Taunton. He also took 1-61 with the ball. What may, however, have given him the most pleasure was catching brother Niall in the match against Northamptonshire. It was an all Ireland occasion as the bowler was George Dockrell.

Apart from his matches for Ireland Kevin has been involved in other representative cricket, for example for the ICC Winter Training Camp XI in South Africa in 2006 -07, where he played several good innings under Porterfield's captaincy, for Europe against MCC and for a Rest of The World XI in Hong Kong., where his spectacular hitting was again in evidence.

Kevin's feats for Ireland are so numerous that it would be impossible to justice to all of them here. However a flavour of his achievements for and value to his country may be gained by observing a few of the highlights. At the time of writing he has hit four centuries for Ireland. Pride of place must, of course, go to his wonderful 113 against England at Bangalore in the 2011 World Cup. It is worth remembering that Ireland were staring down the barrel at 106-4 when he came in and, facing an England total of 327-8, were soon 111-5. With his hair dyed an outlandish colour in aid of a breast cancer charity, Kevin simply took charge, reaching 50 in 30 balls and 100 in 50, eclipsing Matthew Hayden's 66 ball record set in the previous tournament. He hit 6 sixes, the biggest a 102 metre on drive off Jimmy Anderson, and 13 fours. Though he was out agonisingly close to the target, Trent Johnston and John Mooney were on hand to see Ireland home. Even Geoffrey Boycott was moved to describe the innings as "An exceptional performance."

An earlier World Cup innings - of the T20 variety - should not be forgotten either. At Trent Bridge in June 2009, Bangladesh totalled 137-8 and with Niall - 3 sixes - to the fore Ireland had reached 89-4 when Kevin came in. to play the crucial innings. According to Wisden, he "finished the job pulling two sixes of his own." Also hitting 4 fours he was 39* at the end having made his runs from 17 balls.

Besides an innings of 101 v Oman in a World Cup Qualifier in April 2009 which came off 91 balls with 6 fours and 5 sixes, Kevin has also hit two hundreds against Kenya, both of them spectacular. The first at Nairobi came in a World Cricket League match in February 2007 in a game lost by one wicket as Kenya's last pair scored 54 runs off 38 balls to win. Earlier Kevin had come in at No 5 to join Porterfield as Ireland were faltering on 57-3 having been put in. They proceeded to put on a record unbroken 222 for the 4th wicket, both making centuries. Kevin, in total command, finishing on 142 off 1125 balls with 11 fours and 6 sixes. His innings against the same opponents at the same venue the following year was again record breaking. It was a must win game with the successful side to take on Namibia in the Final. Ireland batted first and were 235-3 when Kevin came in replacing brother Niall (135). Facing 215 balls, he hit a spectacular 171* adding 129 for the 4th with Andre Botha (109) and then a record, unbroken, 214 for the 5th with Andrew White (92*). Ireland totalled 578-4 declared and went on to an innings victory.

Not all of Kevin's valuable innings for Ireland have been so spectacular. That epic St Patrick's Day victory over Pakistan in the 2007 World Cup would never have been achieved without his totally uncharacteristic 16* from 58 balls in 92 minutes. Involved in crucial partnerships with brother Niall and his captain Trent Johnston, he remained calm, despite a mini collapse, to help see Ireland to a memorable win. Later in the tournament, the brothers defied the New Zealand bowlers to add 75 runs only to see their team mates succumb to the wiles of Daniel Vettori, while Kevin's robust 48 against Bangladesh ensured that the good work of Porterfield and Jeremy Bray was not wasted and a winning total posted.

Two innings against county sides and one against Scotland, round off this review of his batting. In the Friends Provident Trophy of 2008, in which he took Ireland to a 4 wickets win over Warwickshire at Stormont with 2 sixes as overs ran out, he made a superb 93* against Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge off 75 balls, with 11 fours and 1 six. When he came in Ireland needed 7 an over. He took them to within 2 runs of victory, hitting the last ball for 4, but a 6 was needed, the bowler being Darren Pattinson, destined to have a macabre test career the following summer, when Kevin was at it again. This time Hampshire were on the receiving end. Facing a total of 316-2 at The Rose Bowl, Ireland were never in the hunt but, as Wisden reported, "Kevin O'Brien smacked six sixes in a valiant 94 for Ireland." Again facing 75 balls, he hit 8 fours and 6 sixes.

Against Scotland in the World Cricket League at Amstelveen in July 2010, Ireland needed to win to be sure of retaining their hold on the trophy. Facing a total of 232, they lost three quick wickets before Kevin, who had come in at the fall of the second, took control. He saw Ireland to victory with hardly any further alarms, having bated 133 minutes for a fine 98*. He faced 104 balls, with 4 fours and 3 sixes.

Among his several good bowling performances for Ireland, we may note 5-38 v Canada at Toronto in a 2010 Intercontinental Cup match, part of a fine all round performance. The hosts had been dismissed for 120 in their first innings with Trent Johnston, leading the side once more, taking five wickets and Kevin one. Ireland then made 261 of which Kevin contributed a powerful 57 off 98 balls with 11 fours. During the innings Johnston was struck in the face and took no further part in the match. Kevin took over the captaincy but when Canada batted again was reluctant to bowl himself, coming on as sixth change. Swinging the ball, he soon had a wicket, but was later to delay taking the new ball for 16 overs. When he did he soon struck again and finished with figures of 17-3-39-5. By the end of 2012 he had been successful in two of his eleven matches as captain, having during the year's alleged summer often been faced by strong opposition and /or dreadful weather.

Two years earlier he had bowled finely against Nottinghamshire at Castle Avenue in a Friends Provident match. Sent in by Porterfield in his first match as captain, the visitors were soon in trouble thanks to Kevin. Bowling the second over of the innings he trapped opener Bilyal Shafayat leg before for a duck, then in his next over brought the ball back a foot to bowl Oxford Blue Mark Wagh for the same score. Later in the innings he had captain Chris Read and a raw young fast bowler called Stewart Broad caught as they tried to force the pace. It was an altogether excellent performance, giving him figures of 10-4-31-4. It is worth noting that Read hit him for 4 and 6 off successive balls, so that otherwise he bowled 58 deliveries for 21.

Economy and success had also marked his bowling against Scotland at Stormont in a rain ruined draw in the Intercontinental Cup. The Scots batted negatively to reach 314 on a slow wicket amid depressing conditions. However Kevin ensured that they were unable to force the pace had they shown a desire to do so. His figures of 19.4-9-38-4 helping restrict the total to 314. Some thought that he was lucky to obtain an lbw decision against Gavin Hamilton, the former Test player, but the umpire did not! Ireland easily obtained first innings points in the play that rain allowed.

When Ireland's long campaign of 2012 finally ended in the Sri Lankan rain, Kevin had won 186 Irish caps and scored 4151 runs at 29.05 besides taking 141 wickets at 29.23. It is, surely, not too fanciful to forecast a double of at least 5000 runs andl over 200 wickets. During the year he played three innings which, though they were nowhere near his best scores for Ireland, all deserve to be receive a special mention. In the ODI against Afganistan his 31 seized the initiative and enabled Ireland to recover from a disasterous start. He came in at 33-4 to join Ed Joyce and proceeded to take the attack to the bowlers facing 32 balls, hitting 4 fours and 1 six. Another O'Brien epic seemed on the cards when Joyce ran him out. "He was", said the guilty party, " the only batsman to look comfortable on this pitch." Fortunately Ed was being modest and continued his innings to enable Ireland post a winning total.

Kevin again batted well in the so called four day match against South Africa A at Lodge Road, Coleraine. So called as rain destroyed the match wiping out the first and third days. Batting at 6 - and leading the side - Kevin made 58 from 73 balls, hitting 9 fours and 1 six. He put on 109 for the 5th wicket with John Anderson who defied his countrymen by being first in and last out for 68.

Kevin again showed his class in the T20 World Cup against Australia, the match in which it might be most accurate to say that Shane Watson defeated Ireland. Ireland were, once more, 33-4 when Kevin came in, this time to join Niall. They put on 52 before Kevin was caught off the inevitable Watson. He had made 35 from 29 balls with 5 fours.

Kevin Joseph O'Brien will, surely, be remembered as one of the most remarkable of all Irish cricketers.